What Is Toothpaste?

Author: Dr. Sarah Mischo, DMD

Walking down the oral hygiene aisle can be daunting, but whether it’s the flavor, texture or creative packaging that draws us to a product, we all have our preferred brand of toothpaste. There are so many different forms of toothpaste on the market these days, however, a question that you may be asking yourself is,  “what should I be looking for in a toothpaste?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question is specific to each person depending on their oral health care needs. A patient may need a sensitivity toothpaste, or a toothpaste that helps fight gum disease or tartar build-up, or a toothpaste with a higher level of fluoride to help prevent cavities.

While the ingredients may vary slightly between brands of toothpastes, they all contain a similar general base formulation that consists of:

  1. Mild Abrasives- such as modified silica particles. The abrasive component helps remove plaque and stain and may help with whitening the teeth. On every toothpaste there should be the letters ‘RDA,’ which stands for Relative Dentin Abrasivity. This is a standardized scale that ensures the tooth paste’s abrasive properties are safe to use and won’t cause damage to the tooth structure. When purchasing a toothpaste look for a toothpaste that has a RDA value of 250 or less.
  2. Humectants-ingredients that help prevent the toothpaste from drying out or getting a gummy consistency.
  3. Flavoring agents- one of the most important ingredients when choosing a toothpaste. The flavoring in toothpaste can either be natural (i.e. peppermint, spearmint etc.) or come from an artificial flavoring. All American Dental Association accepted toothpastes use flavoring that contain no sugar.
  4. Thickening agents- also known as binders. The binders help stabilize the toothpaste.
  5. Detergent- such as Sodium Layryl Sulfate. This is what causes the toothpaste to become “foamy”.

Whatever toothpaste you decide to use, one key ingredient you need to look for is fluoride! Fluoride plays a vital role in preventing tooth decay. The fluoride in toothpaste may come in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monoflurorphosphate. The average household toothpaste contains 1000-1500 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride in it. Fluoride is safe and effective at helping prevent dental decay!

      *Children under 3 years of age- should brush 2x a day using  a smear of fluoridated toothpaste

     *Children 3-6 years of age- should brush 2x a day with a pea sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste

The last thing you should look for on your toothpaste packaging, is the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of acceptance. For a full list of ADA accepted toothpastes, you can visit the American Dental Association website.

The next time you are in, feel free to talk to your dental provider about your toothpaste!